You’re nearly there! As you begin the countdown to the birth of your precious newborn, you’ve come to the right place to get the low-down on your specific nutritional needs for the third trimester.

Continue eating a healthy diet in the lead up to birth

As in the previous trimesters, eating a healthy balanced diet is of great importance. A healthy diet includes all of the following:

  • Fruits and vegetables – 5-a-day;
  • A variety of starchy carbohydrates at every meal – preferably wholegrains which fill you up for longer, e.g. breads, cereals, potatoes, pasta, noodles, rice and couscous;
  • Low fat dairy products 2-3 times a day to meet your calcium needs;
  • A variety of protein-rich foods twice a day, e.g. lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, soya and tofu. Remember your oily fish once-twice a week to help you get enough omega-3 fatty acids;
  • Use your extra calorie requirements to eat healthy snacks. Limit foods high in sugar and fat, like chocolate, cakes and biscuits.

You’re now ‘officially’ allowed extra calories! Your third trimester nutritional requirements

  • You’ve reached the final trimester – you’re allowed an additional 200kcal a day!
  • Continue eating a variety of protein-rich foods, as your protein requirements are higher than your pre-pregnancy needs;
  • Folic acid requirements are slightly raised (as in the 2nd trimester), so include green leafy veggies and wholegrains in your diet, and check the labels of your breakfast cereals to make sure they’re fortified with added vitamins and minerals;
  • Throughout pregnancy, vitamin D supplements are required to ensure you meet your increased requirements. Eating oily fish, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals will give your vitamin D levels an extra boost;
  • Vitamin C – your vitamin C requirements are up an extra 25% this trimester. Including at least one vitamin C-rich fruit a day will help you meet this. Good examples are citrus fruits (clementines, grapefruit) and berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants);
  • Vitamin A requirements are slightly raised as in previous trimesters; include a variety of fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products (avoid liver and liver-containing products as they contain high levels of vitamin A, which can be toxic for your baby).

Weight gain during the third trimester: what to expect

Expect to gain around 1lb (½ kg) a week if you were a healthy weight pre-pregnancy (BMI 18.5 – 24.9). You should expect to put on ½ lb a week if you were obese pre-pregnancy. It’s really important not to gain too much weight, as it’s harder to lose it post-pregnancy, it could make labour more difficult, and it can affect the outcome and future health of your baby.

The best way to gain a healthy amount of weight is to eat healthy snacks when you’re hungry, and try to avoid eating too many foods and drinks high in fat and sugar. Continuing your physical activity routine during pregnancy will help you control your weight. If you’re not active, take up something new today! Start slowly and gradually increase to 30 minutes of moderate activity a day.

Can I stop taking supplements yet?

Not quite yet! You still need to take vitamin D supplements (10 micrograms per day) throughout your pregnancy and after birth if you’re planning to breastfeed. Vitamin D is found in pregnancy multi-vitamin supplements and Healthy Start Vitamins, or you may decide to take a single supplement containing vitamin D. Be sure to avoid all regular vitamins or cod liver oil supplements because they contain high levels of vitamin A which could be dangerous for your growing baby. You don’t need to take folic acid after week 12 if you’d prefer not to, but many women continue taking it in the form of pregnancy multivitamins or Healthy Start Vitamins.

Which prenatal vitamins

If you already consume a healthy, well-balanced diet, all you need is the basic formula that contains the recommended 400mcg of folic acid and 10mcg of vitamin D. You can get it from Boots or Holland & Barrett. Also, it’s a great option if you’re on a budget!

For those of you who feel like you could use some additional help in the nutrition department, go for a more complete supplement such as UK’s bestselling prenatal formula Pregnacare Plus Omega-3. It contains a combination of 19 vitamins and minerals, including 400mcg of folic acid and 10mcg of vitamin D, plus fish oil capsules.

Another option is New Chapter Perfect Prenatal. It’s an organic, whole food supplement rich in high quality nutrients, including multivitamin complex and probiotic blend. Although quite expensive, the supplement is very highly rated on the other side of the Atlantic and you can buy it in the UK from Amazon or small online vitamin retailers.

Still no dippy eggs or brie!

You need to continue limiting and avoiding certain foods, including swordfish, shark and marlin, liver and liver products, paté, raw / undercooked meat, fish and eggs, unpasteurised cheeses and blue vein / mould-ripened cheeses. You should not eat more than two servings of oily fish a week, limit caffeine to 200mg a day and limit alcohol to 1-2 units once-twice a week. Don’t forget to wash all fruits and vegetables well. You can look forward to your dippy egg or brie sandwich after birth!

Common third trimester nutritional issues

  • Anaemia – including red meat, oily fish, beans, lentils, chickpeas and fortified breakfast cereals will help prevent anaemia;
  • Heartburn – eating smaller meals and more regular snacks often helps. Avoid eating late into the evening (leave 2 hours between food and bed). Common triggers include rich, spicy and fatty foods, and caffeinated drinks;
  • Tiredness – avoid the temptation to eat sweet foods. Instead, give your energy levels a boost by eating snacks based on wholegrains and fruits/vegetables. Try rye crackers with cheese, a bowl or porridge or veggies and hummus dip;
  • Increased urination – keep drinking plenty; this short term problem will pass soon!
  • Constipation – including plenty of wholegrains (e.g. porridge, wholewheat rolls, wholewheat pasta and basmati rice), fruit, vegetables, beans and pulses can help. Drinking plenty of fluids and exercising regularly can also help reduce constipation;
  • Bleeding gums – look after your dental health by limiting sugary foods (especially sugary snacks and sugary drinks);
  • Swelling (oedema) – drinking plenty of low-sugar fluids will help flush out excess fluid.

Getting ready for labour: what you need to know

Can nutrition help induce labour?

We still don’t understand exactly how labour starts, but there are some natural methods thought to bring labour on. Unfortunately, despite popular opinion, there is not enough evidence to recommend certain foods:

  • Pineapple – contains the enzyme bromelain, thought to bring on labour by softening the cervix. There is no evidence it works, and because each pineapple only contains small levels of bromelain, you’d need to eat several fresh pineapples to have any potential effect. This amount could cause diarrhoea and tummy upset, so is not recommended.
  • Curry is thought to stimulate your bowels, which are served by the same nerves as the uterus. Although some mums swear by it, unfortunately there is no evidence of it working. You’ll probably just end up with a nasty case of heartburn instead!
  • Raspberry leaf tea – studies have not managed to prove that it can bring on labour. It may, however, make contractions stronger once you’re in established labour.
  • Gentle exercise – doing some gentle exercise, such as walking can help encourage the baby’s head to come down, which can stimulate oxytocin (the hormone that gets things started).

Preparing for labour

It’s a good idea to stock up the freezer before you go into labour. If you have the energy, cook up some meals in the advance and freeze them. Ask your friends to organise a meal rota for you after the birth. When it comes to labour itself, most women are encouraged to eat and drink during labour. You will be provided with hospital meals if you’re giving birth in hospital or a midwife-led unit. Pack any drinks you want for labour in your hospital bag, e.g. cola, lemonade, fruit juices. Pack any snacks you may need to keep you going, e.g. nuts, fruit, cereal bars. Remember to pack extra goodies to keep your birth partner going too!

For more information read our article on nutrition in labour.


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    NHS Choices (2012) Indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy (Accessed September 2013).

    Rasmussen KM, Catalano PM and Yaktine AL (2009) New guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy: what obstetricians/gynaecologists should know. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 21(6):521-6.

    Simpson et al (2001) Raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy; its safety and efficacy in labour. J Midwifery Womens Health. 46(2):51-9.

    Webster-Gandy J, Madden A and Holdsworth M (2011) Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press.